Union Home Minister Amit Shah today virtually rejected the demand for grant of Statehood to J&K before Assembly elections by reiterating that polls will be held after delimitation exercise is complete and then process to restore Statehood will begin.
On the demand of J-K political parties that elections should take place after Statehood is restored, Shah said Parliament has passed the act that elections will be followed by delimitation exercise.
“First delimitation will take place, then elections will be held then the process to restore statehood will begin. I have said this many times. Now they know that this will be the chronology so they want to create political dispute by demanding the opposite,” he said.
Article 370 was in place for decades but was there peace in Jammu and Kashmir, Shah asked, asserting that the 2019 abrogation of the Constitutional provision has ushered in peace, good business investment and an influx of tourists.
Shah made these remarks during an interaction at the HT Leadership Summit here, referring to a statement by former J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah who had said that the Government will not be able to bring peace in the Union Territory until Article 370 is restored.
“There was Article 370 for the last 75 years. Why was there no peace? If there is a relation between peace and Article 370, was the Article not in place in 1990? It was there in 1990 why there was no peace? Even if we include figures of targeted killings, we are not even close to 10 per cent. This means there is peace,” Shah said at the event where he also delivered the keynote address.
Earlier in his address, Shah said no one believed that Article 370 and Article 35-A could ever be abrogated, and he referred to a conversation with his English professor who had been maintaining that the promise of removing Article 370 by the BJP will be passed on as it is to the next generation.
“I am happy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi abrogated Article 370 from the Constitution on August 5, 2019. Kashmir is at peace now, investment is taking place, tourists are visiting and J&K is gradually looking to stand united with the rest of the country,” Shah said.
Article 370, a temporary provision in the Constitution, gave special status to the erstwhile state of J&K while Article 35-A prohibited people from the rest of India to buy properties in the erstwhile state.
Both provisions were abrogated on August 5, 2019 and the state was divided into two Union Territories – J&K and Ladakh.
Shah said a common statement was issued against him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi that curfew was imposed for so long in J&K and Internet services were blocked in J&K.
“When I went there and asked youths if we had lifted curfew, who would have lost lives? There was initial silence but then they said on video conference they would have been killed. Then I asked whom did Modiji save by imposing curfew. They said they were saved. Then I said the people of the country have to decide what do people, who oppose curfew, want,” he said.
Shah said the kind of development that is taking place under the Lieutenant Governor’s administration, the improvement in the law-and-order situation, influx of tourists, improvement of the union territory in social sector schemes show that a lot of things have changed for good in a small time frame.
“I am hopeful that the people of Kashmir welcome this change and I appeal to all political parties to be part of the political and democratic process,” he said.
The Government for the first time brought defence policy outside of the shadow of foreign policy with the surgical and air strikes after the Uri and Pulwama attacks, a “nation first” move that put India in league with the US and Israel, Shah said.
The strikes were a determined reply against terror but also a demonstration of the Government’s resolve to put the nation first, the Minister said.
“In the past, there was no retaliation to incidents of incursions when terrorists would come, kill our soldiers and go back. It is for the first time, our Prime Minister decided that violation of our borders is not going to be easy.
“The entire world was surprised when Indians gave a befitting response to the terror strike by hitting them inside their homes (‘ghar me ghus kar’) through the surgical strike and air strikes,” Shah said without mentioning Pakistan by name.
Referring to the surgical strikes post the Uri terror attack and the air strike targeting terror camps that followed the Pulwama strike, he said India had set an example.
Only America and Israel carried out such strategic manoeuvres but these strikes ensured that India is added as a third name to the list of nations capable of such operations, Shah said.
“For the first time, defence policy came out of the shadow of foreign policy. We made it clear that we want peace with everyone. We do not want enmity with anyone but safeguarding our borders is our priority.
“Our defence is our top priority. We were able to send out a definite and loud message across the world that if you want to keep peace, we should be treated with peace. Because of this message, India got a new kind of recognition in the world,” Shah said. (PTI)